Foodpanda, Singapore's leading delivery platform, has partnered with ST Engineering on its latest innovation – the delivery of food on drones.
The first test flight, called pandaFly, took place yesterday (August 13th), during which five packages of Ayam Penyet were delivered to a ship located three kilometers from Marina South Pier.
The smashed roast chicken dish took less than 10 minutes to reach the PACC Offshore Services Holdings Holdings (POSH) ship, which has a crew currently under quarantine.
"Better, faster, cheaper"
Image credit: foodpanda
According to foodpanda, customers increasingly want to be able to “buy everything from anywhere and get it instantly”.
The grocery shipping giant plans to use pandaFly to meet these customers' needs by making long-distance deliveries "better, faster and cheaper".
In the past five years, foodpanda has been able to reduce delivery times from 60 minutes to under 30 minutes. With the new pandaFly, customers are expected to receive their orders in less than 15 minutes.
The new pandaFly will serve as a complement to the current delivery drivers.
There are plans to pick up and deliver orders to specific collection points across the island, where one of foodpanda's 12,000 drivers will be waiting to complete the last mile delivery.
"Drone deliveries are much more than a novelty. They help us to deliver faster over longer distances while keeping costs down so that we can continue to satisfy our customers immediately," said Luc Andreani, Managing Director of foodpanda Singapore.
The collaboration between foodpanda and ST Engineering was concluded in March and enables foodpanda to adapt DroNet – ST Engineering's drone network system – to test the delivery of "light food".
DroNet is an end-to-end drone network solution that allows certain tasks or services to be carried out autonomously in an urban environment.
DroNet Infographic / Photo credits: ST Engineering
After the first test flight, foodpanda and ST Engineering will look for drones that can fly further and longer.
“The future of drone deliveries is now. Drones will make it possible to deliver things that were not previously delivered to places that were previously inaccessible, ”said foodpanda.
But will the service "fly"?
Photo credit: ST Engineering
Drone delivery of food is picking up speed, and other delivery companies like UberEats are testing the technology around the world.
However, the service is not without its challenges. The technological investment costs are likely to be astronomical.
Timbré, a Singapore-based restaurant chain, launched “drone waiters” in 2016. The drones, equipped with sonar sensors and stereo vision cameras, set the company back by around S $ 20,000 to 60,000 per drone.
While foodpanda did not mention the costs associated with developing pandaFly, this drone service will undoubtedly be far more expensive than performing a manual grocery delivery.
From the personnel costs (delivery drivers are still required for this drone delivery service) to the maintenance of drones, training fees for flying these drones to the drone licenses themselves, all these costs add up to additional costs for the operator.
While Mr. Andreani said customers don't have to deal with "insane high delivery charges," the cost for the company could make it difficult to launch the service.
In addition, these drones can only transport "light food", which limits their use to deliver bulky food.
Other factors such as the weather also need to be considered. Rainfall is abundant in Singapore and it is unclear whether foodpanda's fleet of drones can weather the storm.
Selected image source: foodpanda